Hurry Up and Wait: My Birth Story, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

Somehow we made it back home through yet another taxi ride (at least we live only five minutes from the hospital!), where we decided, since it was 11:30 at night, to try to slow things down so we both could rest a little. So we watched a movie—or rather, Jared watched a movie while I closed my eyes and fell asleep in the few minutes between contractions. At this point I was feeling something like jet lag from not sleeping for 24 hours and couldn’t keep my eyes open for anything. . . until another contraction came along, that is. Jared would stop the movie during contractions and do what I told him as I sang scales to try to focus on something else. It seemed to make them less intense, which was definitely what I was going for at that point!

At some point the movie ended I decided to try laying down on the bed to see if I could sleep any more comfortably there. I don’t know how long that lasted, but eventually I couldn’t take it anymore and got up, letting Jared get some rest.

This was how he slept.

I think Jared finally got up around 6 or 7 and we decided we’d walk to the hospital to get things going again, since we knew we’d be admitted for sure this time, either in active labour or to be induced. I didn’t really want to experience contractions with Pitocin (syntocinon in the UK) after all that, and since my contractions had now slowed down to every 10 minutes (my relaxing worked, apparently!), I wanted to get them going again.

As you might expect, walking on public sidewalks while you’re in labour guarantees that you’ll get some strange looks. A few people asked if I was ok (they probably wondered if this very pregnant woman who was swinging her hips was about to have a baby drop out or something), and one woman even stopped and offered us a ride to the hospital.

Anyways, our mile and a half walk worked to get labour going. Contractions picked up significantly again, so that when I was checked at the hospital around 10:00, they finally decided I was in active labour and needed no augmentation (aka induction).

So off to the labour ward we went. It felt good to know something was finally happening and maybe we’d be meeting our baby soon. And our midwife was so helpful and reassuring for both Jared and me. She immediately took charge, told me I was doing a great job, and answered all Jared’s questions. After about an hour of laboring in the labor ward, I asked for an epidural because my lack of sleep was really catching up to me. It sounded blissful to be able to lay down and sleep and not feel any contractions, though I felt like the pain was still manageable with breathing.

As it turns out, it was a good thing I didn’t ask for the epidural because I couldn’t handle the pain any more. The anesthetist came in around 12:30, I think, and got everything sited and ready by 1:00. As he left the room, he told me, “That should kick in in around twenty minutes. I hope I don’t see you again, since in my job it’s a sign things haven’t worked!”

Well, twenty minutes went by and I topped it up. Nothing happened. I felt cold going in when I pressed the button, but nothing at all went numb. The midwife said that maybe it just needed a couple extra top ups, so I waited till I’d had about three or four more. Still nothing.

So there I was, hooked up to all kinds of monitors (because it had been so long since my water broke), with a blood pressure cuff on my arm that annoyingly would always go off when I was having a contraction, and an epidural that wasn’t working.

This was pretty much how it looked the whole time.

Thankfully, the midwife was a great advocate and called the anesthetist again. He was in theatre (operating on someone), so a different person came by and tried topping it up with something stronger. And. . .it still didn’t work. I was still able to get out of bed and use the restroom—although that seemed to be the only place I couldn’t quite feel.

About four hours after getting the first epidural, the anesthetist finally came back and re-sited it, promising that it would work this time. As I’m sure you can guess by this point, it didn’t. And to add to the bad news, when they checked me I’d only progressed one centimeter and that baby’s head was posterior (which I could have told them due to all the back labor!). (They may have checked me before the second epidural—I don’t really remember.)

Another couple hours of laboring on a bed strapped up to several monitors and wearing a blood pressure cuff that always went on during a contraction with no pain relief from the epidural went by. Squeezing Jared’s hand while I breathed through them was my main method of coping, and I’m sure his hand was sore the next day.

They offered me gas and air, but I didn’t really want it as I thought it might disrupt my hard-won methods. Finally, though, as the midwife was getting super fed up with the anesthetist and went off to find someone who could give me an epidural that would actually work (about 8 hours after I’d  requested one), I gave in and tried it just so I could see what it was actually like.

It was a strange sensation. It didn’t really help with the pain; it just made me feel like I was outside of my body and was aware of this person on the bed dealing with everything (and of Jared and the midwife), but didn’t really have any connection to anyone. They kept asking me questions and trying to get me to talk while I was using it, but I didn’t want to. And when I was breathing it, it made me feel like I wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

Anyways, I didn’t like it and stopped using it after about three contractions. I’d rather feel like myself even if I’m in pain!

Around 8:00, another anesthetist came in who actually knew what she was doing, and gave me a spinal first and then another epidural. I made it through the placement—not expecting anything, because maybe my body just didn’t like the anesthesia—and this one actually worked. It wasn’t a complete

Around this time, they checked me again, and I was still only six centimeters and dilating unevenly because JQ was turning around and not coming down straight.

To help him turn, they decided to augment my labor with Pitocin in hopes that stronger contractions would move him along.  I agreed, because now I had my epidural, and though I could still feel the contractions, they just felt extremely tight instead of painful. During this time, they kept monitoring my temperature and baby’s heart rate and whispering among themselves (the shift had changed and now there was a different midwife and a student midwife helping us). It had been over 36 hours since my water broke, and baby’s heart rate was getting faster and then slowing down a little whenever I had a contraction. They put me on IV antibiotics and stopped the pitocin, but my temperature was going up and was around 37.7 C (100 F). I could tell they were getting kind of worried.

As a last resort, they checked me again, and had the surprising news that his head was right there and ready to come out! This was the easiest part of the entire labor–after about 5 strong pushes, he came out all at once, and he even had his hand by his face (where he preceded to keep it for about the next 24 hours). I suspect he’d been coming down for a while, which is why his heart rate was decreasing some, but since they were doing minimal checks and I had an epidural, nobody knew. At any rate, it made pushing easy! He was screaming shrilly and was all red, and was eating like a ravenous little boy within thirty minutes. The midwives said they’d never seen a baby that new eat so well. So at 12:51 a.m., 16 hours after being admitted to the hospital and 33 hours after going into labor, John Quincy came into the world. Joy really did come in the morning. And he still eats all the time. 🙂

John Quincy with his favorite uncle named Seth
JQ working with daddy.

Hurry up and Wait: My Birth Story, Part 1

In honor of my due date (it’s crazy that he’s already a week and a half old on my due date!), here’s John Quincy’s birth story. Apparently it was the type of labor that freaked out everyone except me. 33 hours of labor sounds long and grueling, but it really wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds (though Jared would probably tell you differently!).

Anyways, the saga begins on Friday, October 16, when everything seemed just as usual. I’d just had my 38 week check-up, where everything was normal, and was anticipating that little man would certainly wait until closer to his due date to join us. But just as Saturday morning was beginning, at 12:30 a.m., I was sleeping away when there was a small “pop” and I was drenched. I sat there in shock for a couple seconds before hurriedly getting out of bed so it wouldn’t get any wetter and shaking Jared awake (it took him awhile to wake up!). It was even more of a surprise since this was an entire week and a half before my due date and we were betting on having more time before baby came, since we’d moved only a few short weeks before. But this was an unmistakable sign that baby’s arrival was imminent.

We packed our bags, called the hospital, and were told to head in and be assessed. I was nearly certain we’d be sent home again, since I hadn’t had a single contraction yet and was obviously not in labor other than leaking copiously. We headed in anyways and they handed us a pamphlet on what to do if your waters break before labor starts, monitored the baby’s heartbeat for a while on a most uncomfortable bed in triage, and sent us home with instructions to come back either at 9:00 am on Sunday morning to be induced or when contractions were 3 minutes apart if labor started before then. So we went home to try to get some sleep before things started up.

As I was still leaking and my side of the bed was drenched, I tried to catch a few winks on the couch but was mostly unsuccessful. Even though I wasn’t having any regular contractions at this point, I did have a few that were mildly uncomfortable and kept me from ever really falling asleep again, though I tried. I don’t function well without my sleep. And who doesn’t want to take their last night of uninterrupted sleep if they can? Thankfully, Jared was able to get another six hours of sleep to make up for his rude awakening in the middle of the night.

The rest of the morning, we puttered around the house and took it easy, doing a few dishes and making sure all the water from the night before was mopped up, taking some walks, etc. I was still having pretty mild irregular contractions all morning, just slightly stronger than the Braxton Hicks contractions (somebody needs to change that name—I’m pretty sure Braxton Hicks, whoever he was, never had one in his life, and he has an ugly name on top of that!). It wasn’t until around 3 pm that they started getting stronger and more regular, starting off about ten minutes apart.  After an hour, they’d sped up significantly and were 3-4 minutes apart and lasting about a minute each. Jared started getting antsy at this point, afraid he’d have to deliver the baby himself, but I was pretty sure they’d still send us home again as it hadn’t been that long and I could still (with an effort) walk and talk through them. So we waited about an hour till 5:00, and as they were still regular and getting stronger, we decided to go in. After all, they did tell us to come in when contractions were 3 minutes.

Unfortunately, I was right—I wasn’t anywhere near dilated, and was hardly even effaced. So back home we went to try to get things to progress a little. We climbed stairs until I was afraid of disturbing the neighbors (and of getting stuck on a stair in the middle of a contraction—not so nice when you’re afraid of heights), did some walking, and mostly just groaned over the dining room table while Jared pulled at my hips so they wouldn’t fall off and put pressure on my back so it wouldn’t split in two.

After another four hours of that, when there was no way I could do anything through contractions but moan on hands and knees, we decided to go in again as I wanted validation that I was progressing and wouldn’t just be in labor forever.

This time the news wasn’t much different: I’d dilated a centimeter—as a generous estimate. The midwife on call looked at me skeptically: “Is this your first baby?” I admitted that well, yes, he was.

“Well, go home and come back when the contractions are three minutes apart and you can’t walk or talk through them,” she said, with the air of one who knows when a woman’s in pain better than she does. I looked at her in despair—“That’s what they told us before! How I am supposed to know the difference from that and what’s happening now?”

She walked away, and told Jared, “More, more, more! She has to feel more of everything. But we can give her a paracetamol [British for Tylenol] for the pain right now.”

For the record, people, Tylenol does absolutely nothing for contractions. I told her I wasn’t interested in taking something that wasn’t going to do anything for me, but Jared insisted I take it anyways. It didn’t help.

As we prepared to go back home yet again, I lost it and started crying. It had been 24 hours since I had gotten any significant amount of sleep, I’d been in labor for six hours so far, and nothing was happening. And then this lady seemed to be insinuating that I was just some wimpy little first time mum who had no idea what real labor was like and would know it when it jumped on top of me.

And. . .now you’ll have to wait for part 2 to find out what happened, since this is already the longest post I’ve ever written. Stay tuned! (Spoiler: we had a baby. And he’s kinda cute.)